What's in a name? Nation reacts to Denali change

Photo/Becky Bohrer/AP

GOP representative: Obama renaming Denali "insulting"

Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, deemed the name change "insulting," vowing in a statement to reverse it if he can.

"Congress passed the law in 1917 establishing the name of Mount McKinley, and another act of Congress is required to make any future name changes. President McKinley is a well respected American hero who deserves to be honored and I hope my colleagues will join with me in stopping this constitutional overreach. President Obama has decided to ignore an Act of Congress in unilaterally renaming Mount McKinley in order to promote his job-killing war on energy," Gibbs fumed. "This political stunt is insulting to all Ohioans."

 

The tortured Denali vs. McKinley backstory

In 1977, the BGN was on the verge of announcing a decision on the issue when the Ohio congressional delegation introduced a Joint Resolution in Congress, calling for the mountain to “retain the name Mount McKinley in perpetuity.”

That was a particularly slick move by the Ohio lawmakers, because in the 1960s the BGN adopted a practice of not wading into geographic name issues that were the focus of pending congressional legislation.

 

It's back to Denali, but some McKinley supporters may be in denial

Supporters say McKinley’s subtle brilliance is in the details; a Republican president who faced tough decisions in his policy toward China and declared war with Spain over Cuban independence, who brought the U.S. into a new generation as an emerging world power.

Now the former president lies in the middle of a controversy over a mountain in a far-away Western state he never visited. On Monday, President Obama officially re-designated Alaska’s Mt. McKinley as Denali, the original Native-American-inspired name for the tallest mountain in North America.

 

If not for a mountain, what is President McKinley’s legacy?

While he was remembered favorably in the years right after his death—McKinley is one of the four presidents to be assassinated in office—his reputation later fell, aided in particular by those who considered him an imperialist. Up until the 1960s, Gould said, McKinley was seen as a weak president, manipulated by those around him, too easily pushed into foreign involvement. "There was one famous little quip that he had the backbone of a chocolate eclair," Gould said.

But then a historian named L. Wayne Morgan wrote a book in the 1960s that asserted McKinley was a better leader than many realized, and he followed it up with a book in the early 1980s that argued McKinley was the first modern president, not Roosevelt. As the University of Virginia's Miller Center on the presidency writes on its Web site: "He is now viewed as a President who tried mightily to avoid war ... who acted decisively when all the diplomatic cards had been played, and who asserted great presidential authority over his cabinet and generals."

 

Watch The Daily Show explain why Mount McKinley had to be renamed

Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper investigated the issue on the show back in July, attempting to sort out why "people who don't live anywhere near the mountain" have been able to prevent the U.S. Board of Geographic names from even considering the proposal to change Mount McKinley's name to Mount Denali.

 

 

Updated: 
08/31/2015 - 3:19pm

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